After completing the 2 DLCs and then finishing off the Lord of Cinder, I am left with a bittersweet ending: the conclusion of the Dark Souls franchise. There have been varying opinions about the 2 DLCs and whether they have been a fitting sign-off to the series. So, I’m here to share mine and as a bonus, compare the 2.
Ashes of Ariandel takes players into an enchanted painting, The Painting of Ariandel. There denizens have sought refuge from the ever encroaching darkness of the fading flame. Ringed City meanwhile, delves into the mangled mass of worlds thrust together from varying timelines as the world of Lordran collapses. Both DLCs draw references and inspirations from past games too. For example, The Painted World of Ariamis from DS1 and Harvest Valley from DS2.
The 2 DLCs differ in that Ringed City has the NPC quest line of Amnesiac Lapp you can follow. Ashes though, does not have any quest line to follow at all. The result is that Ashes is less direct to the player than Ringed City. This is mostly due however, to the Ringed City being larger than Ashes. So it is understandable that Ashes would be less lore intensive than Ringed City. It just has less content overall, and since the Souls games are inherently indirect in narrative style, it comes down to how much the areas, objects and interactive elements can portray. Nonetheless, both DLCs still evoke emotions and drama through their respective environments.
Unfortunately, I am no lore expert. So if you’d like to see more explanations for yourself you can go check out those wonderful YouTubers offering up their interpretations and discoveries.
The 2 DLCs introduce new enemies, new items and new levels.
In this regard, I felt Ashes was less frustrating than Ringed City when going in blind. Although both were incredibly difficult to solo.
On this hand:
The Ringed City introduces enemies that’ll make you whisper death threats through grated teeth. Seriously. They are annoying, brutal and never relenting. They sometimes affect you outside the building or through a wall. Ashes of Ariandel has its kicks too, but there’s places to escape to if you’re in a sticky situation. The Ringed City was all about running for me, as the enemies were designed thusly. So Ashes was more satisfying on a base level of smacking shit up.
On the other hand:
Annoying enemies create more satisfaction when done in. Especially when you co-op. I barely co-oped through Ashes. In the Ringed City, it’s almost all about co-op. I feel they designed it as such. Dividing up the enemies’ attention or finding the way you are meant to defeat an enemy was great. I’d have finished the DLC in a quarter of the time if I had co-oped all the way with knowledgeable Sunbros. Unfortunately, this is a double edged blade – the bad connections can be rough especially when you don’t want to look to Google for the answer and would rather see it demonstrated by a jolly friend.
Alas, Ashes only has 2 bosses. One of those is absolutely fantastic, well-designed and a challenge. The other pays homage to DS1 and is a cakewalk. The Ringed City boasts 4 bosses though, with the first being great fun and somewhat difficult, reminding me of O&S from DS1. As for the second one, it is optional and extremely tough and arduous, but very cinematic. Coming up third is a boss that had good intentions, but frustrated the heck out of me because it can be influenced by your connection. Oh and the last boss was also cinematic, challenging and fun.
The levels in the DLCs are quite good – they reintroduce the concept of linking back up with a central bonfire and both DLCs have references to areas from other games present within them as stated earlier. Ashes of Ariandel had some great views but the Ringed City proved to be a greater example of scope. The distance and scale I felt helped immerse me greatly into this new area. Even though I expected to be disappointed at another cathedral-esque repetition, I was rather pleased by the beauty and subsequent devastation of it all. I admired the detail on the Renaissance-like buildings as well as the verticality. It truly did bring a sense of familiarity and finality to the series. There’s even a cute little puzzle referring back to the Abyss in DS1.
Say hello to interesting weapons and spells from both DLCs! The Ringed City has provided players with a plethora of new weapons, spells and beautifully animated weapon arts – primarily flame and sorcery-based. Ashes came along with 2 scythes that seem to be a favorite among the community due to their elegant killing style. Ashes has some thunky heavy set weaponry too, for strength users, that I used for some sneaky beaky PvP. The effects of which were “groundbreaking” ba-dum-tss. Ringed City has some anime-style weapons that will have you “jumping for joy”… ba-dum-tss again.
Also, both DLCs have paid their respects to past bosses from DS1 with their final boss weapons. Ashes to Priscilla and Ringed City to Artorias. Be on the lookout.
Fashion Souls returns. One can cosplay as a Viking or a Hollow Knight complete with their respective weapons. I feel Ringed City beats Ashes in regards to armor sets, namely because some are wholly unique to the series and perhaps pay homage to DS2? (be a giant human effigy or knight of Eleum Loyce maybe?)
Both DLCs have enemies with a telltale sound that sends shivers down your spine, but perhaps The Ringed City more so than Ashes. The haunting shriek of an Angel sent panic coursing through me, a turtle priest’s mumblings the precursor to annoying spells and the call to a ringing bell after which ghostly apparitions are summoned. The sound design in this particular DLC was greater than Ashes.
Both DLCs had great voice-acting (one of which was instantly recognizable – hint hint nudge nudge). The Scottish accent of Father Ariandel gave me goosebumps and made my hair stand on end the first time I heard it.
In terms of Boss songs: Ashes of Ariandel optional boss had a samey soundtrack as the rest and gave its final boss a chilling 3-piece song that’s very unique. The first boss of The Ringed City has a strong, deep set choir at the helm and leaves a sense of regality. The second (optional) boss has a unique violin and choir pattern that has left it with a characteristic harmonic. The third boss has intense percussion and choir singing. The Ringed City’s final boss’ send off is deep, solemn and the inclusion of violins brings about a sense of urgency and energy. I’m not too sure but I feel like some of The Ringed City pieces sound much like other pieces throughout the game – a critique I have overall for Dark Souls 3.
The Thing That Made Me Despise The Ringed City
Even though I wish this would not be a factor in judging The Ringed City, unfortunately it must be… This DLC was by far the most unstable thing I’ve experienced in a video game for a very, VERY long time. The last time anything was near as unstable as this was when I played Fallout 4 on a below minimum requirement laptop and it crashed maybe every couple of playthroughs (i.e. maybe once every 12 hours?) and then I knew it was the save files. I am not the only one with this complaint – other people have been complaining about the instability of BOTH DLCs.
I never crashed in Ashes though. Even on an aged PS3 where both Dark Souls 1 and 2 had frames stuttering like someone trying to explain why they’re watching Hentai to their conservative parents, it never crashed. Even playing DS3 on said below minimum laptop, it never crashed. Now, playing on a computer well over the recommended requirements… it crashed – frequently. It crashed loading, it crashed summoning, hell it crashed while not in The Ringed City and in the damn Archives. Finishing this DLC felt sour and I wished it didn’t. There has since, to my knowledge, been no fix.
After playing a series that had never crashed once, I was crashing almost every 5 – 10 minutes. Sometimes, I’d last for a good session.
Frankly, this is awful. Going through the loops to fix it didn’t work and unfortunately I am not at liberty to re-download the whole game. What a wonderful area only to be besmirched by some terrible bug. A bug which froze the game in such a fashion only logging out and logging in again was the solution to force a quit.
The only thing left was faith – faith that my save file was fine (of which I backed up numerous times).
If anyone has a reason for why this crash occurs, I’m all ears. Unfortunately, it will affect my review.
The Fire Fades
Discounting the crashing, Ringed City is a glorious, final DLC and I did enjoy Ashes as well. Ashes was far too short for a completely satisfying DLC, but what it gave was still substantial and interesting enough for it to be worthy. The Ringed City is a massive DLC though and has tons of content. Of course it’d be better than Ashes. However, the crashing issues were indeed a straw on a camel’s back.
Due to these crashing problems I was/am unable to even play DS3 properly – that is something I can’t overlook. Ashes beats Ringed City due to Ringed City being so goddamn unstable. But if it was stable, Ringed City walks over Ashes.
Dark Souls 3 DLC: The Ringed City and Ashes of Ariandel
Release date: March 28th, 2017
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: From Software